Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today about the Employee Free Choice Act. Below are the Speaker's remarks, as prepared:
'Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, because the right to organize is essential to the path to prosperity for all Americans.
'I salute the tireless efforts of the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, Congressman George Miller, for his tireless efforts to bring this bill to the House floor early in this session. Though the Employee Free Choice Act has long had broad bipartisan support, under Republican leadership, it was never allowed a vote. Democrats are proud to bring this bill to the floor for the vote it deserves.
'The Employee Free Choice Act is the most important labor law reform legislation of this generation. But this legislation is about more than labor law: it is about basic labor rights, about the rule of the majority free from intimidation, and about protecting jobs .
'It is a guarantee - when a majority of workers say they want a union, they will get a union.
'Many of the benefits all workers enjoy today are the results of the struggles of organized labor - and their victories have not just benefited union workers. Millions of those who never had the chance to join a union, enjoy better wages, safer workplaces and greater rights because of the battles fought by union members. Unions have helped make America the most prosperous, most productive nation in the world, with a vibrant middle class. Organized labor has helped put America in the lead.
'Labor unions will help keep America in the lead. They strengthen America's middle class by providing workers with the opportunity to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
'As a result of the union membership and their struggles, union members earn 30% more than nonunion workers. They are 63% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and in a time of great anxiety among retirees, union members are four times more likely to have a guaranteed pension.
'Today, 57 million American workers say they would join a union if they had the chance - to be part of the effort to keep America number one. And millions of employers throughout this country work cooperatively with unions representing their employees.
'But, too often, workers face harassment, intimidation, and coercion when they try to exercise their rights to form unions.
'Every 23 minutes a worker is illegally fired or discriminated against for supporting union. It is illegal, and it is wrong, but it is also common. When workers want to form a union, they often find that the deck is stacked against them.
'The Employee Free Choice Act puts democracy back in the workplace, so that the decision to form a union can be made by the employees that the union would represent. This is a standard we rightly demand for workers around the world because it illustrates not only a respect for labor, but a commitment to democracy: we should accept no lesser standard here in America.
'Passing the Employee Free Choice Act is an economic issue and it is a fairness issue. That is why this bill is supported by a broad coalition of justice-seeking groups - from the NAACP, to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, to a large number of religious organizations. It has been cosponsored by 226 House Democrats. It is also supported by 69% of Americans.
'Americans are working harder than ever. Yet the median income of working-age families has declined every year since President Bush took office, now $3,000 less than it before. Never in our history has the median income of workers declined for four consecutive years when the economy has grown.
'Democrats believe we must make our economy fairer. We took the first step in our first 100 hours, with a strong bipartisan vote to increase the minimum wage.
'And today, we take the next step, with a strong bipartisan vote to ensure that America's working families have the right to organize.
'Because the right to organize means a better future for them, and for all us. It means a future that is economically and socially just, a future where the workplace is safe, a future where our retirement is secure.
'I urge my colleagues to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. It is a vote in favor of the future.
'Thank you, Madam Speaker.'
Below are the Speaker's remarks, as prepared: